Steve Jobs swore by a fruit diet because he felt that it improved his ideas. He wasn't far off. Food high in tyrosine (such as various types of fruit) allow us to think harder and more creatively.
Recently, researchers found that individuals who drank orange juice with added tyrosine were better at solving puzzles than those given a placebo. Tyrosine-rich foods and supplements that include tyrosine are a great way to help increase our ability to think deeply. For example, students taking an exam or individuals whose jobs require a great deal of deep, focused thought can benefit from added tyrosine.
In this study, researchers investigated whether creativity in convergent and divergent thinking tasks is promoted by l-tyrosine, a precursor of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that drives cognitive control and creativity. There was no impact of tyrosine on divergent thinking (brainstorming) but it did promote convergent (deep) thinking. Convergent thinking requires more cognitive top-down control. This finding suggests that tyrosine can facilitate control-hungry creative operations. Therefore, the food we eat may actually affect how we think.
Tyrosine is an amino acid that increases the production of dopamine in the brain, and norepinephrine and epinephrine produced by the adrenal medulla. Tyrosine metabolism declines as we age and therefore, supplementing with tyrosine may be beneficial. Tyrosine can indirectly be assessed through an organic acid test by evaluating neurotransmitter metabolism – i.e., vanilmandelate (VMA) and homovanillate (HVA). VMA is associated with epinephrine and norepinephrine and HVA is associated with dopamine catabolism. They are both associated with the stress response and overall adrenal health.
Science shows us that tyrosine positively influences our ability to think creatively. Besides fruit, this amino acid can be found in spinach, eggs and cottage cheese.
For related information on brain health, please listen to our April 3, 2013 Clinical Rounds call, Preventing Cognitive Decline, with Eric Braverman, MD.